Have you ever wanted an alarm that would wake you up in the morning without making your partner angry?
When I Sleep, I Sleep Hard
This was the problem I had been trying to solve for years. My wife, Lauren, was growing increasingly irritated with my alarm snoozing habits, dragging on for nearly an hour.
No Good Solutions
There are plenty of vibrating alarms that you put under your pillow or mattress, designed for the deaf, but there was no way I thought Lauren would sleep through those earthquake machines. The vibrating watch I bought didn’t work out.
Enter Fitbit Charge HR
I had been looking at my friends’ fitness trackers for a while, but I decided I wouldn’t buy one until it could measure your heart rate. With that information, you can learn all sorts of things about yourself. Then came the Fitbit Charge HR, which does measure your heart rate.
But the real reason I bought it, was for the vibration alarm function. $150 for an alarm clock – exessive?
I’ve been using this fitness tracker for 10 months, and here’s my review.
Fitbit Charge HR Review
I’ll get straight to it – I think the device is great. It hasn’t left my wrist for more than a couple hours every now and then to charge and when I shower.
In the past 10 months I’ve logged 1,826,302 steps, climbed 4291 flights of stairs, walked 862.14 miles, and burned 839,928 calories.
Why It’s Great
The coolest thing about the Fitbit Charge HR to me, is that it tells me how long I sleep every night. It notices when I stop moving at night, and then when I start moving in the morning. It tells me if I was restless or if I woke up to go to the bathroom, and it subtracts from my overall sleep time.
It does not tell you when you are in light sleep versus REM sleep, unlike the Jawbone Up3. But I just don’t believe that the Jawbone device can accurately detect your sleep stages.
HR is for Heart Rate
Heart rate information is cool because the device can pretty accurately measure your calorie burn throughout the day and during exercise. It will also tell you your resting heart rate, which is an important metric for heart health.
The heart rate monitor is usually very accurate – when I check my pulse manually, it’s right on. Except I’m pretty sure it reports a higher resting heart rate than I really have.
The only time it gets off is when the device slides down to my wrist bone, where it sits comfortably like a watch – which is most of the time. Fitbit’s instructions say for accurate measurements the device should be 1-2 finger widths above your wrist bone. When it’s wrong though, it’s not long before it finds your pulse and reports an accurate number.
The smartphone app is great. It’s an easy place to track all your stats. You can also start challenges with your friends – competitions like who can get the most steps in the workweek.
You can track track exercise. Just go for a run – it will notice and give you the stats later. The app also syncs with popular fitness apps like Map My Run and calorie counters nicely.
So? Did it live up to my expectations?
No. The vibrating alarms are cool. There’s just one problem; after about 15-20 seconds it automatically snoozes, up to three or four times. The vibration is powerful and usually wakes me up, depending on how tired I am that morning.
BUT… sometimes that last vibration doesn’t wake me up…. and then it turns off. If you’re not awake by then, you’re totally screwed! You have no chance of getting up on time now.
It’s really unfortunate. Two easy tweaks could fix the problem – 1. Don’t snooze the alarm unless I push a button. 2. Don’t turn off the alarm unless I hold the button down.
It’s really disappointing, so now I use the silent alarm and regular alarm. You can chain together several alarms, but it’s not ideal.
It’s a Watch
I’ve been without a watch for many years now, and I’m just at that point where I kind of want to have the time on my wrist again. The Fitbit fills in for that too.
It actually has a pretty cool feature where it will display the time if you lift your wrist as if you were looking at a watch. This is optional, and as I’ll get to later, reduces the battery life.
The device is very comfortable, fits nicely, and it’s not bulky. It’s just really fun to wear and check your steps and pulse throughout the day.
Why It’s Not So Great
No Laziness Alert
The Jawbone fitness trackers will alert you with a subtle vibration if you’ve been sitting for an hour, nudging you to get off your lazy ass. I think that’s wonderful feature, but the Fitbit just doesn’t do it. I’m not sure why – it would be very easy to implement.
Extremely Slow Syncing
It takes FOREVER to sync with my phone. When I first got the device I was using an old iPhone 4S, and I thought that was the issue, but when I upgraded to my iPhone 6 it didn’t get much faster.
It can easily take two minutes or more to sync. That doesn’t sound like a long time, but when you just want to set your alarm before bed and you have to groggily keep tapping your phone to keep it from going to sleep, it’s really very annoying.
Sometimes it I think it must not be working because it’s taking so long, and it has to go through the full sync process 2-3 times before it actually finishes, increasing the feeling that it’s not working.
Outside of the alarm issue, the battery is my biggest complaint. When I first got the device, the battery lasted about five days, but over the course of last 10 months it has gradually gotten weaker, so that it will only last about three and a half to four days now. Then if you turn on some of the other features, like call notifications, it will take about a day off the battery life.
Wears Out Fast
Though the device itself feels like it’s made of good, quality materials and it feels comfortable, Lauren and I have gone through four defective devices already. The first one I got had a faulty battery that didn’t last the full five days. I’m on my second one, about to take it back again because of the weaker battery.
The first one Lauren got fell apart when she hit her wrist against something unknowingly, and then the battery quit working completely after a couple months of using the second one. Fortunately we both bought them at REI, which has an amazing no questions return policy. I’d hate to have to deal with warranty service so many times.
I really do like the Fitbit Charge HR, though I don’t know if there’s any actual value using a fitness tracker, as it’s a completely unnecessary device.
I was going to buy a watch, however, and at $150 the Fitbit is a fairly inexpensive watch and it does so much more – so there’s some justification. I just hope it lasts.
Score: I give it 50 resting heart beats out of 65.
What’s Your Favorite Fitness Tracker?
Do you have a fitness tracker that you love? Let me know your favorites in the comments.